Planning For Success by Sophie Baber
Like any outstanding school, Highfield and Brookham have high expectations, high standards and a detailed improvement plan that strives to provide the very best education for children between the ages of 2 and 13. As with any improvement plan, this starts with a dream, an ambition. From the initial notion, discussions take place, so that the relevant stakeholders can deliberate the possible ways forward and fine-tune the details, until a clear and concise plan can be formulated.
As any self-respecting army officer will tell you, poor planning leads to poor performance. So, like a school improvement plan, when fixing upon a New Year’s resolution, it is important that a plan is put into place in order to ensure that the resolution can be achieved.
Highfield and Brookham pupils started the new term with a welcome from their respective head teachers. In the pre prep assembly, the Brookham pupils taught me how I could achieve my goal of running a half marathon. Rex reminded me that perseverance is key; Alistair pointed out that a plan is vital and Paloma highlighted that I should ask for help and support from my friends, because they can help me get through the times when I want to throw in the towel.
At Highfield, Phillip Evitt spoke to the children about the Roman god Janus. With a face looking forward and one looking backwards, Janus gazes upon the future and the past. The future is an unknown quantity with exciting adventures and difficult challenges ahead; however, it does us no harm to look to the past, to reflect and learn from our previous experiences, in order that we can improve and make the most of the future.
- How hard did you work?
- Did you try your best?
- Did you prepare properly?
- Did you collaborate with others in order to get and give support?
- How did you treat others?
If I am going to run the Reading Half Marathon on Sunday 5th April, in a time and manner of which I can be proud, these are the questions that I will have to reflect upon honestly.
For parents the notion of helping can be a problematic one. Most of us are familiar with the concept of Helicopter Parents. However, Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshmen at Stanford University, talks about the notion of ‘Snowplough Parenting’ in her book How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. In our desire to help our children, her use of the metaphor snowplough can be perhaps more apposite. This is the notion that parents fasten themselves to the front of their child’s life and act like a snowplough, removing or dissipating all obstacles out of their child’s way. These children are never allowed to be disappointed, or to fail to make a team, or to come away without a prize of some sort. In fact, they never learn to cope with any kind of setback.
As a parent of three rather rambunctious boys, I completely understand the deep-felt desire to see one’s children happy and successful. I worry about what will become of them in adulthood. I particularly worry about where on earth they are going to school after Highfield. (Thank goodness for Phillip's support and knowledge!) But, as tempted as I am to micro manage my children, I have seen enough to conclude that this kind of action is not an effective preparation for life. Self-efficacy is a vital component to future success and Julie Lythcott-Haims explains how children can achieve this in her Ted Talk.
Therefore, when your children inform you of their New Year goals, encourage them and please do help them devise a plan in order to achieve their dreams, but remember that this is their dream. If they are to be truly proud of their achievement, it must be THEIR achievement. If they fail along the way, all to the good, as this is just part of the learning journey.